Pioneer History by Richard C. Schmal

Historic Homes of Lowell

(from the Dec. 29, 1998, Lowell Tribune, page 8)

The following quote is from the May 1996 newsletter published by the Lowell Public Library: "Part of the charm of the Town of Lowell is in its older homes."

In that same issue, the library invited everyone to attend a meeting featuring a photo display and a new brochure about some of the community's homes.

Several months before that meeting a small committee began its research, photographs were taken and a grant sought for the purpose of printing a brochure about 24 historic homes. Jo Cade and the Old Timer were a part of the research committee, while Don Cade produced the fine photographs. The library staff worked many hours, with the brochure written by Doreen Anglis and designed by Amber Wietbrock.

The goals of the "Historic Homes of Lowell Project" were to stimulate interest in the history of the community through a study of its older buildings, to create and preserve a record of historic local homes for the general public and for researchers, and to foster public understanding of historic significance when remodeling older homes.

Just 24 homes were picked carefully from a list of the older homes in town; criteria mandated that all were to be within the town limits, constructed before 1910, and with an appearance similar to the original building. Unique architectural features and the availability of historical information were important factors in the difficult choices.

The "Queen Anne" style of architecture combines medieval and classical elements to create the most exuberant of nineteenth-century styles. Asymmetrical composition, with towers, turrets, tall chimneys, bay windows, projecting pavilions, spindled porches and balconies are featured, along with contrasting materials on walls. Some have stained- glass windows.

The homes of Queen Anne style shown in the brochure are at the following addresses: 260 Burnham, 204 W. Commercial Ave., 231 W. Commercial Ave., 521 W. Commercial Ave., 520 Franklin St., 140 N. Liberty, 626 Lincoln St., 709 Michigan St., and 702 E. Commercial Ave.

In this "eclectic" style, the owner or builder often incorporated the elements from more than one particular style. A Victorian-Eclectic style home is located at 251 Clark St., while the home at 248 N. Viant is of the Queen Anne-Eclectic style. The homes at 317 S. Fremont and 228 W. Main are also of that style.

"Vernacular" is a style of architecture which tends to reiterate local forms, adapting them to changing conditions over a long period of time. For economy, a compact plan is the rule. These can be seen at 251 W. Commercial Ave., 134 N. Fremont St., 1244 Harrison Ave., 243 W. Main St., 224 Washington St. and 115 N. Nichols St.

There is one "Italianate" style in the brochure -- the large home at 427 E. Commercial Ave. It was a predominant style in Indiana during the late nineteenth century, derived from Italian villas. Of vertical composition, with tall, narrow, slightly arched windows with segmented or round-arched hoods, there is a low-pitched roof supported by decorative brackets and a widow's walk, "a platform with rail around it, built onto the roof for viewing ships at sea," above the roof.

One "Federal" style home is shown at 207 E. Main St. The Halsted House features flat, undecorated wall surfaces of local materials, usually brick or wood weather board, and is rectangular, with a low-pitched gabled roof and end chimney. This is a common style along navigable waterways and early transportation routes such as the old National Road, now one of the well known highways through Indianapolis. The style is often found on farms in Indiana, Illinois and Iowa.

The "Free Classic" style is a later, more formal variation of the Queen Anne style, a bridge between Queen Anne and Colonial. It usually does not have a tower or fish scale shingles, but may include a Palladian (Roman) window in the gable and classic columns supporting the porch. Two homes of this style are at 490 W. Commercial Ave. and at 266 W. Commercial Ave.

The Historic Homes project was funded through an Indiana Heritage Research grant, a joint effort of the Indiana Humanities Council and the Indiana Historical Society, and was co-sponsored by the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana.

Karen Kiemnec of the Northern Regional Office of that foundation supplied much valuable information for the project.

Two meetings on the Historic Homes were very well attended, especially by owners of older homes and by historians. If anyone is interested in borrowing and viewing the videotape from these meetings, it is available at the Lowell Public Library, along with copies of the brochure. Information on restoring old buildings and many human interest stories were taped during those meetings.

"If you would like more information about the featured homes or any of Lowell's older houses, how to research your home, or how to restore a historic home, the library's staff will be happy to assist you," notes the brochure.

Last updated on March 8, 2002.

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